How to write a beautiful, catching query letter that will make literary agents want to keep reading.
Let's get real, here. Querying agents is one of the most arduous pieces of the whole writing process. As writers, it can be difficult to gauge what a literary agent even wants to hear.
And that isn't even counting the trouble an author has to go through to condense their manuscript down into the perfect synopsis that both catches the agent's eye and makes them want to request pages of your manuscript.
So, I've taken it upon myself to break query letters down into their most basic parts so future querying writers can fill in the blanks, add a little flair, and get going with publishing already!
Dear Ms. Agent,
TITLE OF YOUR BOOK IN ALL CAPS (number of words rounded to the nearest thousand), primary setting of your book (Utah), is the first/third/stand-alone novel in an X-number-of-books series centering around the main conflict of your plot. Change this next sentence to include your own manuscript’s comparable titles and the elements that make these pieces similar to yours: It’s similar in concept to Richard K. Morgan’s body switching in the Takeshi Kovacs Series with the moral contemplation portrayed so well by Lestat de Lioncourt in Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles.
Main Character’s Name is a twenty-two-year-old some characteristic that describes outward appearance (i.e. African) woman with a primary characteristic that makes the MC stand out. This sentence should be more information about why your MC has that Primary Characteristic. This sentence should be information about why that Primary Characteristic makes your MC unique and what might potentially go wrong for your MC if that characteristic is revealed to others.
Talk about the thing that throws your MC into the action in this sentence (e.g. a run in with a bear or a brother going off to war). This sentence should talk about the outcome of the first piece of action from the previous sentence. This sentence should talk about how the Primary Characteristic relates to the first piece of action and the conflict that combination causes.
Talk about the next most important supporting character here and how they relate to the MC. This sentence should mention a good deed the MC does for this secondary character. This sentence should talk about how the secondary character takes the MC for granted (The creation of more conflict).
Since your ideal audience enjoy two encompassing genre elements (i.e. the impossible and love characters they can root for), I think readers will identify with MC’s name in her quest to get back in touch with a characteristic being overshadowed by the Primary Characteristic. Talk about three points that make your MC a character we can root for in this sentence.
You could use this optional paragraph to mention the agent's interests and why they might be a good fit for representing your book. If it seems like a stretch to include this, leave it out.
Talk about any of your previous publications in this sentence. Tell the agent about any awards you’ve won for writing. This sentence should include any important or big name places you’ve been published like a journal or big-name podcasts or shows you've participated in (If you don’t have that, then talk about the current following you have of potential readers if you have more than 5,000, otherwise you don’t need this sentence at all).
Thank you for your time. I have included whatever it says to include when you looked at the submission page on the agent’s website and look forward to hearing from you.
Your Name Here
It's important to note that your query letter should not exceed one full page at 1.5 line spacing. Anything that goes beyond the first page may be discarded by the agent you're querying, and then, they're missing information about you and your plot.
I've, also, heard several comments about whether or not you should include the ending of the story in your query. My note to you is if you can do so successfully, then kudos. I'm a personal fan of leaving a little mystery and that's why I do not include the endings in my queries.
All in all, keep it short, sweet, and to the point. Don't go off on a tangent about how you and your MC are so similar and about how writing is your dream of dreams or how it's changed your life forever. Agents don't want to hear that stuff. All they want to know is how well you can talk about your manuscript, so, in turn, they can take it and pitch it in a similar way to your future publisher.
Stick to the plot line, people. It's important! It's all the agent wants to know!
Otherwise, I hope this helps you in your querying journey, and don't hesitate to stroke a few agent-egos with some personalized words about why the agent would enjoy your work.
Make it unique, make it yours.
Thanks for reading!